Using the Socratic method, Helm and Dennis challenge readers to wrestle with Scripture itself rather than with systematic questions. This candid look at Genesis is an ideal apologetic against today's postmodern culture.
About the Authors
David R. Helm (MDiv, Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary) serves as lead pastor of the Hyde Park congregation of Holy Trinity Church in Chicago. He also serves as Chairman of The Charles Simeon Trust, an organization which promotes practical instruction in preaching. He is the co-author of The Genesis Factor (with Jon Dennis), a contributor to Preach the Word: Essays on Expository Preaching, and the author of The Big Picture Story Bible and 1 and 2 Peter and Jude in the Preaching the Word commentary series.
Jon M. Dennis (MDiv, Trinity Evangelical Divinity School; MLA, University of Chicago) is the founding pastor and senior pastor of Holy Trinity Church in Chicago, Illinois. He has helped to establish the church's four congregations and various ministries including Hope for Chicago, the Charles Simeon Trust, and the Chicago Partnership for Church Planting. He is the author of several books and is currently working to complete his doctorate of ministry at Westminster Theological Seminary. Jon and his wife, Amy, have five children.
I grew up in the home of a pastor. I learned early that unless you wanted to sit for an hour and listen to your dad talk, you don't ask complicated questions. I was reminded of that feeling while reading "The Genesis Factor."
Written by two pastors, "The Genesis Factor" touts its intended audience as "seekers," and uses the example of college students wrestling with questions of origins and meaning. The authors liken the quest for answers to a discussion around a dinner table, where the voice of the Bible, and more specifically, Genesis, is ignored as an implausible tribal myth. The purpose of their book, therefore, is to examine the Biblical text to see if it is, after all, a credible voice that deserves to be heard.
A fine proposition. And they do a fine job of explaining the first three chapters in Genesis from a solid, Christian standpoint. I was especially impressed with the broad use of writings other than the Bible-from literature to science and philosophy-to raise questions and illustrate mankind's various solutions.
The weak point of the book was in its organization. Like the trailing explanations I received as a child, "The Genesis Factor" answered more than it asked. Helm and Dennis based their organization on the order of the Biblical text, working verse-by-verse, and sometimes word-by-word, through Genesis 1-3. This is certainly a familiar method for experienced exegesis and for pastors who frequently consult commentaries arranged in just that manner. But for a work such as this it presents two main problems. First, for the intended audience (those who have ignored the study of the Bible all their lives), reading a Biblical commentary is a foreign concept. And, second, it tempted the authors away from answering their questions by allowing them to discuss words and phrases not critical to their main point. For example, noting that the description of the six days of creation is arranged in a beautiful parallel pattern does nothing to answer the question of the origins of man.
A stronger organization would have been to divide the book into three parts, each answering one of the three fundamental questions raised by the authors. The Biblical text could have been applied where appropriate within the three parts, and needless tangents could have been avoided.
I would recommend this book mainly to Christians looking to answer the tough questions of their friends or seeking to clarify their own beliefs. It would be difficult for a non-Christian unfamiliar with the conventions of Biblical commentary to find what they're looking for in this book.